Throughout my childhood, my family and I gathered around the kitchen table for dinner every evening. Coming together for a homemade meal allowed us to reflect and slow down amid the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. During my first semester of college, cooking out of necessity and eating hastily in between classes, I missed the feeling of community that those nightly dinners provided. So, I began preparing food for my two roommates and inviting them to sit at the counter with me. Even though one roommate complained jokingly about my fondness for salad, these casual gatherings became great bonding experiences. I also discovered that sharing food with others brought incredible joy and satisfaction to the process of cooking.
Busy balancing academics and extracurricular activities, many college students perceive hosting as time-consuming and impractical. Through my own experience, I have learned that entertaining need not be complicated and expensive. The food can be as simple as tomato sauce pasta or peanut butter sandwiches; it is the gesture of inviting friends over for a shared meal that will be appreciated.
In his cookbook, The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings, Nathan Williams showcases unique cultural approaches to entertaining, illuminating the connections that emerge from intimate gatherings.
“Entertaining looks different for each of us, but as long as we’re cooking and inviting people into our homes with a genuine interest in connecting, conversing, and eating together, then the way we do these things becomes insignificant and ultimately comes naturally,” Williams writes.
This week’s recipes are hearty, comforting and ideal for sharing. I designed them in preparation for the online video tutorial I shot with Daily Trojan Editor-in-Chief Euno Lee and Online Director Razan Al Marzouqi. After filming the video on a dreary, cold morning, we savored warm bowls of vegetable and sausage soup and ate seconds of cinnamon-scented apple crumble.
Both dishes are straightforward in ingredients and preparation, allowing seasonal produce to shine. A convenient one-pot recipe, the soup cooks for less than an hour but tastes as though it simmered on the stove all afternoon. For the apple crumble, a quintessential fall dessert, slightly sweet, tender apples lay nestled beneath a buttery crumb topping. While we enjoyed the crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it is just as delicious the next morning with Greek yogurt. I hope these recipes inspire you to host your own small gathering, discovering the joy and benefits of cooking for yourself and others.
Seasonal Vegetable and Sausage Soup
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 medium white onion, diced
• 2 celery stalks, diced
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
• 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
• ½ of a small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste or 2 tablespoons tomato puree
• 2 chicken sausages, casings removed
• One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 5 sprigs thyme
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon pepper
• 2 cups roughly chopped kale
Active: 15 min; Total: 40 min. Serves 6-8.
1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery and carrots and cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. You do not want to brown any of the ingredients, just sweat them.
2. Mix in sweet potato, squash, tomato paste or puree and sausage. Break up sausage into chunks using a wooden spoon. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add beans, chicken broth, water, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring the entire mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow the soup to cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender but not mushy. Serve.
A combination of sweet and tart apples, such as Granny Smith and Gala, orange juice and dried apricots give this dessert vibrant flavor.
Recipe adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich.
For the filling:
• Zest and juice of one orange
• ½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
• ¼ cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 6 medium apples, mixed varieties
For the crumb topping:
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup rolled oats
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 1 scant cup chopped walnuts
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 2-quart, 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the apricots, orange juice and zest in a small bowl; allow the apricots to soften while you prepare the apples.
2. Core and dice the apples into ½-inch chunks. Place apples, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl and toss until all the apples are evenly coated.
3. To prepare the crumb topping, mix flour, sugar, rolled oats, salt and walnuts together in a medium bowl. Add butter, breaking it up with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture sticks together in clumps. The mixture should be the texture of coarse sand.
4. Combine the dried apricot mixture with the apples. Pour apples into dish and top evenly with crumb topping. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the crumb is golden brown and the apple juices are thick and bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or Greek yogurt.
Maral Tavitian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Epicurean Dorm,” runs Tuesdays.